The year 2008 gave birth to the App Store and the Android Market (now known as Google Play) and since then we have been watching the App Age, well, come of age. Downloading an app used to be novel concept; people would download any mobile application that was remotely interesting to check out the latest game, fad, be part of the social scene or handle more utilitarian tasks that were now available at the touch of a button (order a taxi, buy groceries, transfer money, join a virtual meeting). By June 2015, Apple reported more than 1.5M apps in the app store, 100B downloads, 850 apps downloaded every second and 119 as the average number of apps that a person has on their smartphone.
These numbers present an enormous opportunity for marketers. Downloading an app means the person has invited the brand into their life. The brand is there all the time, in the palm of the consumer’s hand, and can either be the equivalent of a chachkee that collects dust on the shelf to eventually be put away and replaced with something more interesting, or be continually engaging and attractive.
Here are 4 ways to make sure your app doesn’t eat dust:
- Make sure your app reflects your brand. Your brand is more than a logo or a design. It is a promise to your customers. This promise can be about an experience, quality level, price, or anything else that you want your customers to associate with you. The features of the app and the way that your customers interact with it, needs to be aligned with the brand. An upscale, fine-dining operator may not want to use its app to provide offers and discounts, but instead create unique VIP experiences or sommelier clubs to entice its audience. Conversely, a brand aimed at millennials may incorporate an achievement program to be more playful and interactive.
- Make sure your app lives and breathes. Providing frequent updates will keep your customers engaged and will keep the app fresh. In getting the app out in the market, it may be wise to start simple with a clear, crisp marketing message and plan to incorporate features and capabilities in stages. For example, the initial rollout of an app may include payment and a simple first time use reward, and Phase 2 may involve purchasing a gift card for a friend, specific offers based on user preferences and consumptions, push notifications based on favorite location and other ways to engage the customer.
- Make sure your app is worthy of the real estate it takes on your customer’s phone. According to Yahoo’s Mobile App Lifestyle Study, 73% of users delete apps due to storage concerns, and most apps are deleted after 3 months of non-use, which means that it is up to the app developer to live up to the customer’s expectation of what the app is supposed to do and the experience they expect to have when using it. In fact, according to the same study, a seamless user experience is the number sought-after attribute of an app.
- Make sure your app is personal, dynamic and relevant. The “me” generation, whether defined as baby boomers or millenials, want the same thing – instant gratification, personal attention and recognition. Your app needs to service that need. That can mean geofencing for providing information on what is available at a particular location, suggestive selling based on past consumption, providing users with dynamic options like adjusting language, views based on past history, etc. While much has been talked about Starbucks being a payment app, one of its most interesting features is the “Pick of the Week”. Asked why it is there and whether it would take away from store sales, Adam Brotman, Chief Digital Officer, stated in an article that was published in Forbes Magazine, “We want people to take a little bit of Starbucks home with them – the notion of having a relationship with Starbucks wherever you are just enhances the brand relationships and probably makes [customers] more likely to think about us and make them come back more often.”
The bottom line: To be relevant, your app must be purposeful. To quote a popular Techcrunch article from last year, “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”
What this all tells us, is that in the age of apps, maintaining relevance is all about the experience.